Donald Trump moves to stop illegal border crossers claiming asylum as migrant caravan approaches

Nick Allen
Members of a migrant caravan heading from Central America, through Mexico, to the US - AFP

Donald Trump's administration announced it will deny asylum to migrants caught crossing the Mexican border illegally.

Mr Trump is expected to sign a proclamation on Friday introducing what would be a major step to restrict asylum claims.

Migrants would only be eligible for asylum if they came through official ports of entry.

The latest crackdown on illegal immigration is expected to be challenged in the courts by civil liberties groups, who argue that anyone who reaches US soil is entitled to make an asylum claim.

A senior administration official said the restriction on asylum claims will seek to address the "historically unparalleled abuse of our immigration system".

The official said: "What we are attempting to do is trying to funnel asylum claims through the ports of entry where we are better resourced, have better capabilities and better manpower and staffing to actually handle those claims in an expeditious and efficient manner."

The regulation would largely affect migrants from the Northern Triangle - Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador - who have been crossing the US border with Mexico.

A caravan of thousands of migrants, mainly from Honduras, is currently making its way through Mexico.

Scores of Central American migrants rest in front of the office of the United Nation's human rights body in Mexico City Credit: AP

The regulation, issued by the justice and homeland security departments, said: "The vast majority of aliens who enter illegally today come from the Northern Triangle countries, and large portions of those aliens assert a credible fear.

"Channeling those aliens to ports of entry would encourage these aliens to first avail themselves of offers of asylum from Mexico."

Immigrant advocates quickly denounced the Trump administration's move.

Omar Jadwat, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Immigrants' Rights Project, said: "US law specifically allows individuals to apply for asylum whether or not they are at a port of entry. It is illegal to circumvent that by agency or presidential decree."